Imperial Ballroom, Nelson
11 May 1963
The Beatles returned to
Liverpool from their respective holidays on 9 May 1963, and two days later
performed their first concert since 27
They performed at the Imperial Ballroom on Carr Road in Nelson,
a town in east Lancashire. Around 2,000 teenagers saw The Beatles play, with
the more enthusiastic fans held back by bouncers at the foot of the stage.
The Beatles appeared at The Imp, as the venue was known, on one
other occasion, on 31 July
1963. Other acts to perform at the ballroom, which burnt down in
1976, included Otis Redding, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Jimi Hendrix
Experience, and Tom Jones.
over 50 years since The Beatles first appeared at The Imp, Nelson’s cult pop
venue – and Steve Chapples recalls the time Beatlemania hit East Lancashire.
appearance in May, 1963, came as their hit ‘From Me to You’ was riding high at
number one in the charts. The Fab Four had, however, been booked some time
previously – for the princely sum of 20 pounds
manager during the sixties was Alan Wilson, who also ran a record shop called
Multi-Relays, in Nelson, and knew Brian Epstein, then manager of NEMS record
store, in Liverpool. Consequently, Alan had taken a group of local youngsters
to The Cavern, just as the Mersey Sound was exploding.
long before Paul, John, George and Ringo had their first hit, ‘Love Me Do’,
Alan had persuaded the Imp general manager Bob Caine to book them – though he
had never heard of them.
1962, three of the group visited the Electron record shop, in Hall Street,
Burnley, owned by Jim Baxter, and John Lennon, ordering a Dinah Washinghton EP,
revealed they had just made a record.
co-owner of the Imp in those days was Alec Holt, and when the band returned to
Nelson in 1963, along with Epstein for their gig, they visited the offices
above his shoe shop, in Scotland Road, after checking out the acoustics.
fire regulations limited the audience to 2,000, the venue could easily
accommodate twice that number, so 5,000 tickets were printed and fans descended
on Nelson from all over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, offering to buy
tickets for 5 pounds each, which was a week’s wages at the time. Glen South,
who played on the same bill, revealed that Brian Epstein hired a flat-top lorry
and loaded it with about 30 screaming teenage girls who, in exchange for free
entry, would stand at the front and whip the rest of the audience into a
frenzy, thus creating Beatlemania.
Beatles, dressed as policemen to hide their tell-tale long hair, were smuggled
in, and out, of the Imp in a Black Maria.
girls had fainted during their 25-minute show and had to be carried to the back
of the stage.
Four later complained that no-one could hear them play, because of the constant
son Les Baxter, who was in the audience, could see them, but not hear, so went
to the bar for a pint instead. The band made a second appearance in July 1963
when their manager managed to negotiate them a better deal.
was given an A Parlophone copy of “Love Me Do”, which all four Beatles
his proudest moments at the Imp was escorting singer Yana to the stage in 1959,
and he also became a close friend of the late Matt Monroe.
was for many years the non-playing captain of Lancashire tennis squad and once
partnered Cliff Richard in a charity doubles match.
January 1963, The Beatles played at the now-demolished Co-oporative Hall, in Darwen,
which was promoted by the local youth club of the Baptist Church. The bill also
included The Electones, The Mike Taylor Combo, and The Mustangs with Ricky Day.
June that year, the band took to the stage at King George’s Hall, in Blackburn.